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Lyon-Martin house to be made into an SF landmark

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Lyon-Martin house

Lyon-Martin house to be made into an SF landmark

The Board of Supervisors of the city of San Francisco is moving to declare the Lyon-Martin house as a landmark of the city after unanimously voting on the matter.

The house at 651 Duncan Street in the Noe Valley neighborhood is where the late lesbian pioneering couple Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin lived for most of their 54 years together.

The Lyon-Martin house selected as a landmark

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who is gay, is pushing the city to grant the house a historic status after it recently sold for US$2.25 million.

“In my view, and I hope in yours, the site is of historic value to San Francisco and the LGBTQ rights movement across the world and it should be appropriately recognized and preserved,” said Mandelman.

With the vote of the Board, the city’s historic preservation commission has 90 days to process before sending it back to the board for a final vote.

Once they do, the will add the 5,700 square foot lot to the list of San Francisco city’s local landmarks. This property has two parcels, including a two-storey cottage and an area for a garden.

“If there is a deserving landmark, this is certainly it,” said District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Peskin had asked to be made a co-sponsor of the resolution, as well as other committee members, District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston and District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí.

Groups supporting the landmark proposal

Historical institutions like San Francisco Heritage and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have expressed support for the move to declare the house a city landmark.

Mike Buhler, president of San Francisco Heritage, declared, “This is a uniquely important site.”

Likewise, a group, the Friends of the Lyon-Martin House, was formed to push for the designation of the house as a landmark.

This group includes leaders of the GLBT Historical Society and friends of the late couple.

Lyon and Martin first moved into the house in 1955. Lyon told Shayne E. Watson, a lesbian and architectural historian, their only requirement was a house “with a view.”

This house later became the gathering place of the city’s lesbian community. Once, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the gathering on the staircase of the cottage.

Benefits for the Lyon-Martin house

Watson, together, with public historian Donna Graves, had included the house in a list of of LGBTQ historic properties as likely eligible for designation as a city landmark.

They also included them to be listed on the California and national registers of historic places. These listings– both state and federal– are largely honorific but give a level of protection to the property.

This protection can be applied to the property if the new owners would want to raze it to build a larger or different structure.

Currently, there are four sites of importance to LGBTQ history in the city granted landmark status.

These include two gay bars, the former home of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and the residence of gay supervisor Harvey Milk, and former Castro Camera shop on 573 Castro Street

Terry Beswick, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society, said: “I can see it in the future be a destination as an archival site for GLBTQ rights and women’s rights here in San Francisco.”

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